The Senate confirmed presidential nominee Robert Califf as the new commissioner of the FDA on Feb. 24 in a roll call vote of 89 to 4.
Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — who previously held a joint press conference discussing their opposition to Califf — were among the no votes. The other two were Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
The vote followed days of debate after the upper chamber voted 80-6 on Feb. 22 to invoke cloture, which allowed for up to 30 hours of debate before a final vote.
Interim FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff praised Califf in a statement, citing his understanding of “the critical role that the FDA plays in responding to the changes in our society while protecting and promoting the health of the public, across the many areas we regulate.” A spokesperson added that no date has been set for when he will be sworn in as commissioner.
Califf was first nominated by President Barack Obama in September. The FDA deputy commissioner for tobacco and medical products and former Duke University clinical researcher drew wide praise from industry, and little opposition ().
Although he faced some tough questions during a Senate HELP committee hearing from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), he remained widely supported by both parties, including Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
Califf sailed through the HELP Committee’s vote to send his nomination to the full Senate by a unanimous voice vote (). His nomination was met with holds from a handful of senators, including Markey, Manchin and Sanders (). Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also placed a hold on Califf’s nomination over genetically modified salmon labeling guidelines, but later lifted her hold following discussions with the FDA. — Michael Cipriano